Coaching management styles work best for Generation Xers, complete with prompt feedback and rewards for results (Eisner, 2005). They use a team of people to support their own personal individual efforts and bring a talent for problem-solving to the workplace (Smola & Sutton, 2002).
Generation Y looks for management that will further their professional development. This young generation performs best when working for and with those who hold the same values. As they often were involved in decisions in the home, from an early age, they often expect to have decision making capabilities in their professional lives as well. For this reason, an inclusive management style works best for this generation, with feedback on their performance. When treated professionally and given challenging work that fits their skills, Generation Y performs best (Eisner, 2005). Armour (2007) notes that like Generation X, Generation Y have high expectations of their employer and their boss.
Generational Views and Use of Technology:
Traditionalists and Baby Boomers both are likely to lack technological skills, as today's computing technology was only a thing of science-fiction novels when they first entered the workforce, according to Eisner (2005). Both generations have an innate dislike of change and believe that the way things were done in the past should continue to be done the same way. For this reason, they often actively shun technology.
Generation X is far more technologically savvy than their Baby Boomer and Traditionalist counterparts, having been instrumental in the Internet Revolution and the dot-com boom of the 1990s. They also fully understand that they are only as marketable as their technical skills so have a tendency to keep these as up-to-date as possible (Eisner, 2005). This is a generation that is online all of the time, getting their newspapers online rather than in print, and creating blogs and podcasts to increase communication, with an increasingly on-the-go audience (Hatchmann, 2008).
Needless to say, Generation Y is the most technologically savvy of the generations. There were kids that were weened on the Internet and would shake their heads in amazement if they were to see a computer start with a 5 1/4" floppy DOS disk or a person back roll a printout from a thermal printer. Their unprecedented access to information has made them also an extremely literate and educated generation that is continually plugged in and connected. They are the multi-tasking generation (Chen & Choi, 2008 ). Eisner (2005) cites a 2003 study that found Generation Y consumed 31 hours of media within a 24-hour period, due to multi-tasking.
Generational Organizational Commitment:
Traditionalists are very committed to the organization, remaining with one company for long periods of time. They are loyal and self-sacrificing for the organization (Eisner, 2005). This is the gold watch generation where a 'career' meant not only performing a job for a long period of time, but also working at the same company for most of their professional lives. Like Traditionalists, Eisner continues, Baby Boomers are not afraid to work long hours for their organization and are typically very loyal, even resulting in ruthlessness when necessary.
Generation X is not as organizationally committed as older generations. This is the generation that pioneered the free-agent workforce and understand that the only means of garnering job security is through keeping skills current (Eisner, 2005). They see each job as a stepping stone to a new opportunity (Gursoy, Maier, & Chi, 2008). Each new position is a learning opportunity to enhance their marketability (Chen & Choi, 2008).
Chen and Choi (2008) also surmise that Generation Y is not as organizationally loyal as Baby Boomers or Traditionalists. This occurs for a variety of reasons. Generation Yers have been raised in a minute rice, fast food society and as such expect rapid promotion and development. They, like Generation X, have high expectations of their employers. In addition, they are addicted to change. These factors quite prone to changing jobs as they see fit for more opportunities and to make a difference in the world, without too much of a second thought.
Overriding Qualities, Values, Styles and Patterns of Each Generation:
As the most senior generation, Traditionalists were children of the Great Depression and World Wars. Eisner (2005) describes them as a generation that was socialized through hardship and scarcity. Traditionalists tend to value patriotism and family and prefer consistency. Because of their high level of organizational commitment, Traditionalists vast amounts of organization and industry-specific wisdom and experience.
In contrast, the Baby Boomers, who were socialized in the 1950s and 1960s, grew up in an era where anything was possible. Chen and Choi (2008) note that they were raised by traditional structured families. This has led to an overarching theme of growth and expansion, for this generation. They were also significantly affected by the Vietnam War, the Kennedy and King assassinations, and the civil rights riots (Smola & Sutton, 2002). Baby Boomers want it all and are willing to work hard to obtain it. They are the classic workaholics. This generation tend to be optimistic, value free expression, and value social reform. They have excellent social skills and loathe laziness and find themselves reacting in an economy where downsizing and re-engineering often puts them in a situation that, because of their life stage, they may not be competitive (Eisner, 2005).
Unlike their Baby Boomer parents, Eisner (2005) notes that Generation X was raised as latchkey kids. Smola and Sutton (2002) and Chen and Choi (2008) agree further surmising that this generation grew up with familial, financial, and societal insecurity. Their common cultural experiences include: the introduction of AIDS, teen suicide, widespread homelessness, toxic waste, workforce downsizing, and rising divorce rates. Despite the fact that Generation X grew up with movies like Wall Street, talked about wearing power ties and saw the popularization of the acronym DINKS -- Double Income No Kids -- material wealth is not nearly as important to them as the Baby Boomers (Hatchmann, 2008). Although this generation lacks the social skills of their parents, according to Eisner, they are more techno-savvy, are self-reliant, distrustful of corporations, individualistic, and lack the loyalty that is common to both Traditionalists and Baby Boomers. Generation X is the generation of entrepreneurs. They embrace change and were the catalyst for the dot-com boom of the 1990s. Generation X are known for accomplishing tasks quickly, efficiently, and effectively -- and sometimes bending the rules to do so.
Generation Y, the newest entrant into the American workforce, were raised in a time of economic prosperity and expansion. However, they are now entering the workforce in a time of significant economic instability and uncertainty. Common shared experiences, such as: the Columbine shootings, September 11th, and growing up in a 24-hour news coverage world means this generation has seen more than prior generations, at the same age. Yet, in many ways they were quite sheltered with the explosion of child safety devices and rules (Chen & Choi, 2008 ). This is typically a moral generation who are patriotic and willing to fight for freedom. They are sociable and value their home and family, like the Traditionalists. However, because of their sheer size and technical literacy Generation Y is likely to significantly impact business and society, like the Baby Boomers two generations past. They are also the most ethnically diverse generation to date (Gursoy, Maier, & Chi, 2008).
Although there is still debate regarding the specific dates when each generation starts and ends, the result in the literature reviewed is the same. Each generation has specific characteristics that differentiates themselves from previous and future generations. These traits are formed by the common culture of the generation, from the financial position of the country while they were growing up to the family structure of the time. By understanding these traits that are unique to each generation, organizations can use their talents to help make their organization more effective and efficient. They can also establish policies and procedures in order to offset any of the challenges that present themselves due to generational differences in their workforce.
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